There is no doubt that this production has been one of the most life changing events of my Duke career. It’s not only because I made incredible friends or because I performed to thousands of people or because Manny A. saw the show. It’s due to a combination of things, some of which can be articulated and others that can’t. I dreamed that this show would be a defining moment for me and it managed to exceed even my wildest imaginations of what it could be.
By far the most moving performance I had was the 2nd Weekend Saturday night showing (April 14th, 2012). Throughout the show, I had this overwhelming feeling that the cast, as a whole, had tapped into something we had never tapped into before. It all came to a grand climax at the end of the 1st act when I was struggling to sing ‘Till We Reach That Day… No it wasn’t due to vocal problems. It was due to the fact that the energy and emotion transmitting between the cast and the audience was almost unbearable. Dramatic as it may sound, I literally had to cut off a few beats earlier for “Pray” in fear that I would literally just collapse to the ground from the immense emotion I was feeling.
Never in my life had I felt such a presence… Such a high (on or off stage)… This was the moment that clarified my want, no, my NEED to become a performer. The fact that you could have this an experience, something that you can’t get from anything else in the world, is why I love musical theatre. The fact that a year’s worth of hard work had returned to me 100 fold. I love the fact that this moment was real. It was now. It’s not something you can capture on a CD, or a film. It’s a moment in time that’s uniquely shared in the life of the cast, the crew and the audience.
This production was not simply a huge production, by any means. It was the moment that I believed that I could ACTUALLY be a convincing actor, not a singer who’s trying to convince everyone else that he’s an actor. It was the moment that I realized that the only way to convince an audience of the complexity and emotions of a character are to personally invest and believe in that complexity and those emotions. It’s the moment that I experienced the perfect synthesis of the actor, the other performers, the script, the music, the set, and everything that makes musical theatre what it is.
It was the moment where I genuinely realized that all the acting training I had taken in Jeff’s class about “having communion with something specific” and “being sincere about what’s going on in scenes” became real. It was the moment that I genuinely realized that Professor Kelley’s notes about “using the music as an emotional tool to move the audience” became real. It’s as if everything that I had learned, worked for, and trained for synthesized into this one, dynamic moment. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
Now onto a shallower, yet still emotional note: the final performance. Throughout the performance, I had numerous moments where I wanted to bawl like baby realizing that this was the last time I would ever play this part on this stage, with these people, with this set, with these musicians. After my death, I thought I would make it to the end of the show without breaking. However, when I reached the top of that staircase during the epilogue and saw everyone across the stage hugging each other, shaking hands and smiling, I lost it. I absolutely lost it. It was literally like a waterfall streaming from my eyes. Immediately I began to flash to the numerous amazing moments I’ve shared with this cast. The laughing, the frustration… EVERYTHING! After the first few seconds, it became quite hilarious as people would come up to me, realize I was bawling and give the same surprised expression on their face. It was even funnier when I was trying to wipe my face before turning around to sing the last portion of the song (which I eventually gave up on as I realized the tears weren’t going to stop any time soon). As I ascended to the bottom level, I didn’t sing. I just wanted to take everything in for one last time. I wanted to hear the cast, view the audience and feel the space one last moment before my year of preparation came to a close.
On that note, I want to thank the cast, the crew, and everyone involved in the Ragtime process for making this experience so magically unforgettable. As I sit here and type, I can feel my heart sinking to my stomach as I officially close out this process. It’s been real and I love you all.
On a technical note: I tabled for 2 hours, helped strike until 9:40p.m. and walked for an hour.